Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • The Ma’k I Space Panzer

    Posted By on January 26, 2017

    Ma’k Morin tried his hand at an original creation — a futuristic tank as envisioned in Popular Science in the 1930s.  See his blog (link at the top of the page) for details.  I was lucky enough to get one of the first out of the molds.  I tend to paint a lot of my retro science fiction vehicles in metal colors like the older serials rather than primary colors like the comic strips.

    The Ma'k I Space Panzer on the painting table

    The Ma'k I Space Panzer on the painting table

    According to Ma’k, the guns in the sponsons have a reasonably long range, but the beam in the Martian eye from the 1953 movie version of The War of the Worlds has fires like a flame thrower.

    Space Bugs

    Posted By on January 26, 2017

    My buddy Ma’k molded these space bugs from the old Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line.  Apparently they are called Phraints.  I just call them “space bugs.”  For these I wanted to try something a little different.

    I found this spray paint at my local Michael’s store.  It is “citrus dream” glitter blast hobby paint from Krylon.  I wanted the bugs to have a shiny appearance, and I was thinking about many layers of increasingly light greens.  Instead, I brush painted the bugs forest green and then sprayed them with this glittery paint.

    After spraying them, they definitely had a different look than I would have achieved by layers of dry brushing.  I should have thought about it a little.  For the glitter to be part of the paint, it sprayed on pretty thickly and gunked up some of the details.  More importantly, it left the areas that weren’t skin (exoskeleton, whatever) with a rough texture that was difficult to cover.  The glitter paint stuck to the figure just fine, but I sprayed them with dull coat to make sure glitter didn’t scatter everywhere.

    Phraints as works in progress on the painting table

    Phraints as works in progress on the painting table

    I painted the “sergeant” and “corporal” with different colors on their antennae than the troops.

    I’m not sure I’ll mess with this glitter paint again, but I am happy with the effect on these bugs.

    I think they look suitably menacing.

    Space Centaurs and Mk. III Robots

    Posted By on January 22, 2017

    Mk. III Robots, Space Roomans, Space Centaurs, Phrinx, Space Ducks, and Dragon Spawn in front of the Phantom shuttle

    Mk. III Robots, Space Roomans, Space Centaurs, Phrinx, Space Ducks, and Dragon Spawn in front of the Phantom shuttle

     I was supposed to go play a war-game with some board gamers from where I used to work on Saturday evening, but Saturday morning I picked up some sort of cold / flu / upper respiratory bug that knocked me out.  All day Saturday and Sunday I would do something for an hour and then take a nap.  I don’t get ill very frequently, but when I do, it really saps my energy.  So, between naps, I worked on two more sets of figures from my buddy Mark Morin (see the link to his blog at the top of this page).

    Space Centaurs on my painting table

    Space Centaurs on my painting table

    Mk. III robots on my painting table

    Mk. III robots on my painting table

    This set included space centaurs and Mk. III robots, both from Star Rovers, I believe.  I started by priming them in dark gray and then dry brushing them white.  For the Mk. III robots, I decided to do something a little different.  I typically paint my robots in 1930′s metallic, but I decided to go with a more Star Wars look of painted robots.

    Mk. III robots backing up some Space Roomans

    Mk. III robots backing up some Space Roomans

    I decided to paint the horse portion of the space centaurs in a variety of colors.  I set out to make them look like Indian paint ponies, but there wasn’t enough horse showing to provide enough opportunity for variation, and the all started to look too similar.  so some of the centaurs became black, brown, and white.   I decided on an orange space suit for the human part of the space centaur.

    Two squads of space centaurs

    Two squads of space centaurs

    In Combat Patrol(TM), I plan to allow the space centaurs two movement cards, rather than one, just like cavalry in the Napoleonic supplement.

    Closeup of a space centaurs

    Closeup of a space centaurs

    As I mentioned earlier, I went with a  basically white paint scheme with just a few details.

    Mk. III robots are organized into two teams (led by corporals) and a squad leader (a sergeant).

    I have quite a large collection of out-of-produciton figures molded by Ma’k.  I just have one set left to paint — some anthropomorphic space bugs.

    The bottom half of a Really Useful Box full of figures cast by Ma'k

    The bottom half of a Really Useful Box full of figures cast by Ma'k: space Roomans, space centaurs, and Mk. III robots

    The top half of a Really Useful Box full of figures cast by Ma'k

    The top half of a Really Useful Box full of figures cast by Ma'k: Dragon spawn, space ducks, and Phrinx

     

    Painted Some Dragonspawn Troopers

    Posted By on January 16, 2017

    Back in October, Ma’k Morin posted an item on his blog about making a mold of some old Star Rovers Dragonspawn figures.  He sent me a bunch of these figures to paint.  I finally got around to them this weekend.

    Star Rovers Phrinx

    Star Rovers Phrinx

    Recall that some weeks ago I painted some other figures that Ma’k molded, the Phrinx.  They sort of looked like ducks in Stormtrooper suits, so I painted them to look like Stormtroopers.

    I thought that the Deathspawn looked like rebels to me from the attack on Princess Leia’s ship at the beginning of Episode IV, so that’s how I painted them.

    Ma’k sent 12 of each of the two poses.  This allowed me to make two units of ten with four figures left over.  I made two of the leftover figures.  I decided to modify two of the extras to create heavy weapons for the Dragonspawn platoon.

    This one is meant to be evocative of a Lewis gun.

    This one is meant to be some sort of anti-vehicular weapon.  Can you see what I used to make this weapon?

    It is the center section of this Dalek.  For some reason I had an extra one.

    I also knocked out these three weeping angels for Dr. Who.  Finally I added the snow to my Winter War Russians.  This was done in the same manner as my previous post about putting snow on the bases of my Winter War Finns.

    Played Frostgrave on Saturday

    Posted By on January 16, 2017

    My victorious war band for Frostgrave

    My victorious war band for Frostgrave

    We played the first game of the 2017 Frostgrave campaign on Saturday.  For this year, I have chose to be an Elementalist.  I did a little better than average, getting off the table with four treasures.

     

    Another Star Wars Combat Patrol(TM) Game

    Posted By on January 16, 2017

    The Star Wars Combat Patrol(TM) Game Begins

    The Star Wars Combat Patrol(TM) Game Begins

    Greg Priebe has been working on a supplement for Combat Patrol(TM): World War II to play Star Wars themed games.  Most of the conversion is pretty straight forward, but last Friday we started working on rules for Jedi and Sith.  This game featured clones vs. battle droids.  Each side was supported by two Jedi type figures.  The droids had General Grievous and another figure.  The clones had Obi-Wan Kenobi (since he was run by a club member, named Don, we called him Obi-Don Kenobi) and Anakin Skywalker.

    Clones Advancing

    Clones Advancing

    In this scenario, both sides were advancing near a village on a desert moon to seize a cache of Kyber Crystals.  After placing the crystals on the table, we randomly determined which board edge we would enter.

    The Droid commander advances around our flank

    The Droid commander advances around our flank

    I was one of the clone commanders.  The battle droids got a jump on us early.  In Combat Patrol(TM), movement speeds are determined randomly.  My clones were getting very slow random movement allowances, and the droids were getting average or better ones.  My clones apparently were being extra cautious or the ground was rougher than expected.  The droid commander, rinding his jet-powered pogo stick thing, pushed out ahead of his forces, since he drew two cards for movement, rather than one.

    In the meantime, the droids advanced steadily against Obi-Don and his clones.  The heavy battle droids were rated as “green” for shooting, but they had a high rate of fire from their arm-mounted blasters.  Despite their high rate of fire, the heavy battle droids didn’t seem to have much effect on Don’s clones.  While his clones advanced, Obi-Don and Anakin jumped out ahead to battle droids with light sabers.  Don’s Jedi did exceedingly well, killing a pile of droids.

    Droids close in on my outnumbered clones

    Droids close in on my outnumbered clones

    In Combat Patrol(TM), after getting a hit, players draw a second card to determine which figure in the target area was hit and whether it was protected by any cover.  Being uphill provides some cover.  Despite being uphill from the droids, my clones rarely seemed to benefit from the cover, as Jim seemed to be getting a lot of head shots.  I was getting torn up pretty badly.  Then several of Jim’s droids advanced up the hill and moved into hand-t0-hand combat with my few remaining clones.  I was outnumbered, stunned, and in many cases wounded.  He mopped up my clones easily.

    An advancing wall of droids

    An advancing wall of droids

    Jim's droids cleared out my clones and re-captured a deposit of Kyber Crystals.

    Jim's droids cleared out my clones and re-captured a deposit of Kyber Crystals.

    At this point, I was down to two clones and the clone platoon leader remaining, but an extra half squad of reinforcements entered the table.  They too were moving slowly, but they stopped for one activation and fired at the droid command on his electronic pogo stick.  I killed him.  Suddenly all the droids were out of command and were pinned.  In Combat Patrol(TM), a pinned unit can only activate on the black cards from the Activation Deck.  (Half of the cards in the Activation deck are black, and the other half are red.)  All of the droids (except their Jedi-type figures) were pinned, which helped us a lot!

    General Grevious advances into the village

    General Grevous advances into the village

    On Don’s and Bill’s side of the table, while Obi-Don was slicing up droids like butter, General Grievous advanced into the village.  My clone commander had been hit twice by droids.  Both hits were just wounds, but my Endurance was now just one, and any hit would cause the platoon leader to be killed.  If I died, all of the clones would be pinned, just like all the droids, and our advantage would be lost.  I took cover in a small building.  As Grievous advanced, he was taken under fire by Don’s clones.

    Don’s clones killed Grievous.  At that point, we were in possession of three of the four outcroppings of Kyber Crystals, Bill’s droids were largely a pile of spare parts, and Jim agreed that he was not going to be able to take another outcropping.  The game was a clone victory!

    We didn’t get to test all of the Jedi rules we’ve been developing, but we’ll get to more of them in the next play test.

    This will eventually be another free supplement for Combat Patrol(TM).  Watch for an announcement!

     

     

    Completed Baker Company Finns

    Posted By on January 8, 2017

    Fininish cavalry for the Winter War

    About two years ago I bought into the Baker Company Winter War Kickstarter.  The figures are now on their Web page for purchase:  http://bakercompany.co.uk/13-ww2-finnish-army.  I committed to running a Winter War scenario with Combat Patrol(TM): World War II at Cold Wars.  There is nothing like committing to run a convention game to provide motivation to get some figures painted.  Before the holidays, all I had done was to file, base, and prime the figures.  Over the holidays I tried to knock them out in groups of 15 or so, almost 100 Finns.  I finished the last sixteen this weekend, six cavalry figures and 10 bicyclists.

    Prone Finns

    The figures seem well sculpted, but the casting is pretty poor.  The mold lines are very pronounced, and the metal is very hard, so cleaning the figures caused my fingers to be sore for days.  On most the faces were very mushy and ill defined.  As I said, though, the sculpting seems good.  I heard there was an issue with Baker Company fulfilling the orders for a while after the Kickstarter and that he had to use a third party to do the casting.  Perhaps more recently molded figures are better.  I can’t say.

    I like this figure of a Finnish marksman behind an armored shield

    Finnish mortar crew

    There are a huge variety of poses.  In addition to standard riflemen, leaders, and submachine gunners, there are a host of crewmen, supply types, skiers, bicyclists, cavalry, gunners, crewmen, etc.  Very few are in the same pose, so they variety is good, and the figures are excellently suited for skirmish gaming.

    Finnish ski troops and reindeer-drawn supply sledge

    There were enough riflemen and submachine gunners to make a reinforced platoon.  In the picture above, you can see a squad (section) of infantry.

    I tried something new with the basing.  After I completed the figures, I textured the bases with Citadel Armageddon Dunes textured paint.  I completely covered all the bases with this paint.  By the time I finished the 100th or so figure, the first base was dry.  I used the burnt-looking grass tufts (pictured above), placing one on most of the bases and several on the larger bases for the guns.  After the tufts I spread some of the Valhallan Blizzard textured paint on the bases, but only partially covering them.  I am pretty happy with the results, which you can see in the pictures.  I like the look of mud showing through the clumpy snow.

    Lesson learned:  I made a mistake of gluing the skis to the bases when I was basing and priming the figures.  This made it very difficult to apply the snow texture after the figures were painted.

    Combat Patrol(TM): Napoleonic Wars

    Posted By on January 8, 2017

    We are announcing the release of a FREE supplement for using Combat Patrols(TM): World War II for Napoleonic skirmishes.

    Combat Patrol is a unique set of rules featuring card-based combat resolution that streamlines play without being simplistic. More information about the base rules is available here: http://www.bucksurdu.com/Buck_Surdu/Combat_Patrol.html.This page includes how-to videos to show players how to play the game. This supplement enables players to represent small skirmishes involving foraging or scouting parties.

    This is a supplement. The base rules are required to play the game. Combat Patrol can be purchased from DriveThruCards (Set A or Set B), Sally 4th, and On Military Matters.

    This supplement is a free download from the rules’ Web page and Sally 4th.

    Ringing in the New Year with Combat Patrol

    Posted By on January 3, 2017

    Combat Patrol(TM) Glider Assault Game on New Year's Eve

    Combat Patrol(TM) Glider Assault Game on New Year's Eve

    Since 2009, I have been hosting an evening of gaming on New Years Eve for the guys in my gaming club.  This year we began around 1500 and ran until about 0200 New Year’s Day.  The first game was a GASLIGHT game run by Chris Palmer, called the Twelve Doctors of Christmas, in which various incarnations of Dr. Who fight against goblins, Daleks, Cyber Men, and other baddies to free Santa from confinement.  The third game was a largish X-wing game.  I ran the middle game, a Combat Patrol(TM) skirmish in which US glider-borne troops assault a German-held bridge.

    Initial setup

    Initial setup

    In the scenario, the Americans had a reinforced platoon of glider-borne troops.  Two gliders landed on the table, but the others, including gliders containing armored airborne jeeps, landed off the table at the bottom right of the picture (above) and entered the table in the first turn of the game.

    The Germans had one squad on the “American” side of the bridge, and another squad deployed in the buildings on the far side of the stream.  There was also a bunker on the “German” side of the river that was initially unoccupied.  The stream was crossable (as rough movement) by infantry, but it was impassible to vehicles.  There Germans had another squad, a halftrack, and a headquarters section that entered the table on the first turn.

    In the picture (above), one German team occupied what was thought of as a strong position behind a wall.  Unfortunately for them, the Americans opened fire first from “medium” range.  The Germans immediately sustained casualties and then struggled with soldiers seeking cover, being stunned, etc. for most of the game.

    The Americans in the second glider encountered little resistance and moved to a position on the hill in the foreground to cover the target (bridge) with fire.

    German reinforcements arrived in the form of a squad mounted in a halftrack.  The unexpected arrival of a fourth US squad that had landed on the “German” side of the stream caused the Germans to re-think their plan.  In addition to holding the bridge, the German’s main objective was to get to the American gliders and search them for plans and important documents for intelligence purposes.  When the Americans showed up on their flank, they had to focus on holding the bridge.

    After dropping half a squad to delay the arrival of the American flanking force, the halftrack pulled back, eventually occupying a blocking position right on the single-lane bridge.  This left the German defenders with limited fires support, and the Americans’ accuracy was uncannily good, mauling the Germans.  by that time, the Germans from the closest glider to the bridge were close assaulting the halftrack, and one of the American squads that started off the table had waded across the river and prepared to assault a German-held bunker.

    The game was a convincing US victory.  The German initial deployment could have been better, but in general the Americans just fired better than the Germans.  They also made good use of the ability of troops with Garands to conducting moving fire, keeping the Germans in a reactive mode most of the game.  Despite the lopsided outcome, I think this is a pretty good scenario, and I intend to run it again at a club night.

     

    Grass

    Posted By on December 24, 2016

    This meme hit my Inbox this morning.  It is a soldier in Iraq growing grass in front of his tent.  I cannot verify the accuracy of the rest of the Email that accompanied this image, but scenes like this were not uncommon.  When I left for Iraq in 2010, the folks who worked for me gave me a cookie sheet, a pair of scissors, a bag of US topsoil, and a bag of grass seed to take with me.  I was living in a shipping container that had been converted to quarters.  It was not uncommon for soldiers to grow a cookie sheet of American grass under their hooch to remind themselves of home.  It takes a tremendous amount of water for grass to survive through sand storms and blistering heat.  I don’t have any personal pictures of this, but the picture above struck a chord for me.  Pause a moment between glasses of egg nog to think of our Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen far away from home this holiday season for whom a bag of American dirt is a special gift.